Google+ Followers

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Save Mahmoud Sarsak & Akram Rikhawi - on Hunger Strike for 84 Days and 60 Days

Protest in France
The BBC - the British Government's main propaganda organ - has consistently refused to carry news of the Palestinian hunger strikes - now or earlier in the year.  But the BBC were more than willing to cover Gilad Shalit when he was captured by Hamas
Palestinian players play in handcuffs to symbolise the hunger strike of Mahmous Sarsak

Like the Irish Hunger Strikers Before Them, Israel's Prison Regime Will Only Change Through Being Shamed by the Sacrifice of its Prisoners

Earlier this year Israel reached an agreement with striking Palestinian hunger strikers in order to ward off a mass hunger strike.  Prisoners on administrative detention, who had never been before a court, would not have their term of detention renewed.  There were other concessions but Israel is already breaking the agreeement – as it has with every agreement between it and the Palestinians.

That is why Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak decided not to call off his hunger strike.  Having been transferred to a civilian hospital, he has now been transferred back to the ghouls of the Israeli Prison Medical Service, whose main purpose is to provide palliative care in order that torture can be prolonged.

People are urged not to let up and to protest at the blanket silence of the BBC in refusing to publicise any details of the hunger strike (if it was an Israeli in a Palestinian prison, things would of course be different).

Tony Greenstein
 
Hafez Omar

Mahmoud Sarsak, midfielder for the Palestinian national football team, has been on hunger strike for 82 days in protest of his detention without trial. Physicians for Human Rights has expressed “grave concern for his life.”
A poster of Mahmoud Sarsak, and some of his athletic trophies. 
 (Rami Almeghari / The Electronic Intifada)
An activist volunteers to represent Mahmoud Sarsak who is now near death after nearly three months without food,
he is symbolically bound and kneeling at the stone engraved "Gaza" outside the BBC headquarters in London,
to protest the corporate media's complicity in Palestinian suffering, their deafening silence
at the plight of Palestinian prisoners forced to hunger strike to resist their illegal detention.
Sarsak (25) is a resident of the Rafah refugee camp and a prominent player in the Palestinian national football team. On July 22, 2009 Sarsak arrived at the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel with a valid permit to enter the West Bank, where he was seeking to advance his sporting career, after already having received offers from a German football team.

However, the permit didn’t help Sarsak, who was arrested on site and branded an “unlawful combatant” – a legal status similar to that of administrative detainees, which allows Israeli security authorities to hold a person in detention without charge or trial for an unlimited amount of time, with military court supervision over the extension of the detention every six months. The detainee has no way to know why he is held in prison – beyond a vague statement regarding his status as “a threat to regional security” – or if there is any evidence against him. Sarsak has also not been able to see any of his family in three years, as all visitations from the Gaza Strip are forbidden by Israel.

In the beginning of 2012, several administrative detainees launched an unlimited hunger strike, following the successful strikes of Khader Adnan and Hana Shalbi, which led to their release. On Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, last April, the strike spread to more than 1,600 convicted prisoners, who wished to protest prison conditions. While most inmates stopped their strikes as a deal was struck last month – Sarsak and two others decided to continue with their protest.

Sarsak has now been on strike for 82 days, the longest Palestinian hunger strike in an Israeli prison. A Physicians for Human Rights report from earlier this week indicates that Sarsak’s condition is deteriorating and that there is a real threat to his life. Following the report, Sarak was taken to a civilian hospital, but then returned to the IPS medical ward. According to the physician who examined him, Sarsak has lost one-third of his body weight, he is suffering from repeated loss of consciousness, and his heart muscle is in immediate danger of collapse.

In reports in Palestinian media and in a clip released recently, Sarsak’s family members say that he was never involved in armed resistance against Israel, and that had he had any reason to fear arrest – he would never have voluntarily left the Gaza Strip for the Israeli-controlled Erez Checkpoint and West Bank. Other than the fear for his life, health and freedom – the family also fears for their son’s football career, and calls upon the International Olympics’ Committee to bar Israel from participating in the London games as long as it holds Sarsak in prison.

Sarsak’s current detention warrant is due to expire on August 22, but can be extended further indefinitely. With him on strike are prisoner Akram Rikhawi (58 days) and Interview with the family of Mahmoud Al Sarsak, Palestinian National Soccer player on hunger strike

As his condition grows ever more desperate, the mother of jailed, hunger-striking Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak has appealed for his release and safe return home

Sarsak, a star Palestinian footballer, was arrested by Israeli occupation forces three years ago at Erez checkpoint as he traveled from his home in Gaza to a match in the West Bank’s Balata refugee camp. He has been held without charge or trial ever since.

Meanwhile, French solidarity activists today protested at the French Football Federation, demanding action on Sarsak’s behalf.

When I see young men of his age passing by, I keep thinking Mahmoud could have been here. Can you imagine when you’re told your son is in Ramle prison, ill, he’s in hospital and you can’t reach him, or visit him, or see him,” Khaldiya Shalabi said in a brief video released by The Institute for Middle East Understanding.

He has been on hunger strike since 19 March. Several days ago, Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi fellow prisoner who is also on hunger strike issued an urgent distress call that they not be abandoned by the world and the Palestinian leadership.

“There is still enough time and the support that comes late is better than that which does not come at all. It is better that you receive us alive and victorious rather than as lifeless bodies in black bags,” the men said, appealing for people around the world to take action on their behalf.


Independent physicians and human rights groups have recently expressed grave concern over the imminent risk to the prisoners’ lives.

In the video, Sarsak’s mother pointed out that she has not seen her son since his arrest due to Israel’s ban on prison visits by residents of Gaza imposed in 2007 as a form of collective punishment after an Israeli occupation soldier was captured.

Sarsak’s mother pointed out that the Israeli occupation soldier was freed last year and “went back to his family, we hope the same for our children, to be happy here. Just like they have children, we have children.”

Aseel, Sarsak’s young niece appealed for his return, “We love uncle Mahmoud so much and hopefully he will get out.”

Despite his long struggle and desperate plight, there has been virtually no international media coverage of Sarsak’s case. An exception was an interview with his father last week on the BBC World Service’s program World Football.

World Football noted that the Israeli government ignored its requests for interviews about Sarsak’s situation.

Activists occupy French Football Federation headquarters

Meanwhile, French activists today occupied the headquarters of French Football Federation. According to an email received from Olivia Zémor, president of the group CAPJPO-EuroPalestine:

Since 11 am this Tuesday, activists have been occupying the headquarters of the French Football Federation in Paris.

They are asking their leaders to support Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer, who has been on hunger strike for 78 days and who is about to die. He’s been in prison for 3 years in Israel without charge nor trial and is not allowed to appropriate medical care not to visits from independent doctors. PLEASE JOIN US AT THE ABOVE ADDRESS.

 Sab Paoli@Sab_Paoli
87 Rue de Grenelle Paris 15è M°La Motte Piquet pr ceux qui veulent les rejoindre #PalHunger #MahmoudSarsak #Palestine #FreeSarsak #LastRT

The group also issued an action alert calling on people to contact the French Football Federation to demand that the organization speak out for Mahmoud Sarsak.



Let Sarsak Live! Palestinian footballer, 80 days on hunger strike

On 5th June 2012 a protest was held in London to bring attention to the plight of Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Sarsak who is on his 80th day of hunger strike and on the verge of dying, which has been largely ignored by the corporate media, including the BBC.

The protest commenced from the Palestine Place, a reclaimed space near Chancery Lane, and moved through central London including Oxford Street, stopping at the headquarters of the BBC, then on to Marble Arch and culminating in Hyde Park.

Mahmoud Sarsak, a professional footballer from Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, has been imprisoned by Israel for 3 years without charge or trial.

He was abducted by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint while on his way to join the Palestine National Football Team for a match in Balata refugee camp in the West Bank.

Mahmoud has now been on hunger strike for 80 days to protest being held without charge or reason for 3 years and to be allowed to defend himself as is his most basic right under international law.

After nearly three months without food, Mahmoud Sarsak has lost his sight and hearing and is on the verge of dying..

A finale plea from Mahmoud Sarsak and fellow prisoner Akram Rikhawi, received from inside prison on 3rd June 2012:

"To the freedom loving people of the world, we cry out to you, and to all people in the worl who believe in the justice of our cause: Do not abandon us to the vindictive hands of the jailers to take what they want from our frail bodies..
We say: There is still enough time and the support that comes late is better than that which does not come at all.. It is better that you receive us alive and victorious rather than as lifeless bodies in black bags.."



Time running out for hunger striking footballer as rights groups demand urgent pressure on Israel

Ali Abunimah on Wed, 06/06/2012 - 18:58

For the first time since their hunger strikes began, an independent doctor has been allowed to visit Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi in the Israeli jail where they are held, confirming the imminent danger to their lives.

After 80 and 56 days of hunger strike respectively, the critical situation prompted 12 human rights groups making up the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations, and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR - Israel) to issue an urgent appeal today for international intervention to save the men.

Sarsak, once a star athlete now weighs a little over 100 pounds (51kg) and is close to death.

The groups emphasized the urgent need for both men to be transferred to civilian hospitals, something Israel has refused to do.

Sarsak has lost one third of his body weight

According to the statement:
the PHR-Israel doctor reported that Mahmoud [Sarsak] has experienced extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. He has lost 33 percent of his body weight, from an original weight of 76 kilos down to his present weight of 51 kilos. He also suffers from frequent incidents of fainting and loss of consciousness, in addition to lapses in memory. The doctor further reported that Mahmoud is in danger of pulse disruptions (arrhythmias) that are endangering his life.
As for Rikhawi,
the PHR-Israel doctor reported that Akram also already suffers from extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. His weight has decreased from 68 kilos to 50 kilos, which is a total loss of 26.5 percent. The PHR-Israel doctor determined that a combination of inflammation of prior chronic illnesses and the complications of hunger strike render hospitalization immediately necessary.
Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, is a member of the Palestinian national football team who was detained by Israeli forces nearly three years ago and held without charge, trial or judicial process. Rikhawi has been held in the Ramleh prison medical center since his arrest in 2004.
Urgent distress call

Days ago, Sarsak and Rikhawi issued an urgent plea from prison, that the local and international neglect of their struggle end.

“There is still enough time and the support that comes late is better than that which does not come at all. It is better that you receive us alive and victorious rather than as lifeless bodies in black bags,” the men said in a poignant appeal to people around the world to take action on their behalf.

And, Sarsak’s mother echoed her son’s appeal in video statement along with other members of his family.

World must act say groups

The groups signing today’s statement:

demand that all hunger strikers in advanced stages are moved immediately to civilian hospitals where they can receive the standard of care necessary;

call for immediate intervention for the IPS [Israel Prison Service] to provide all hunger strikers with unrestricted access to independent doctors;

demand that all hunger strikers are allowed family visits;

urge the Member States of the United Nations to urgently put pressure on Israel to end its policy of arbitrary detention and to abide by the standard rules for the treatment of prisoners adopted in 1955, which set out what is generally accepted as being decent principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners;

call on the European Parliament to activate the parliamentary fact-finding mission that includes members of its Subcommittee on Human Rights to investigate the conditions of detention of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons;

emphasise that the parliamentary fact-finding mission must include an investigation into Israel’s illegal practice of administrative detention and the use of the “Unlawful Combatant Law”;

urge Members of the European Parliament to bring the case of all three hunger strikers to the attention of relevant Israeli authorities without delay.

Media begin to notice

Finally, in recent days, the international media silence surrounding the ongoing hunger strikes has started to break. In recent days, social media users, especially on Twitter, have attempted to draw the attention of journalists and media to the hunger strikers’ cases.

On 5 June, Reuters published a report on Sarsak titled “Israel detention ends Gaza footballer’s dream” which focused on the young footballer’s family and football prowess:

“The entire family and friends are afraid for Mahmoud’s life and the worry is killing us,” said Sarsak’s older brother, Emad.

The 25-year-old is in an Israeli jail on secret charges that he is an “unlawful combatant” linked to the militant group Islamic Jihad, an allegation he denies.

Sarsak had joined the local football team in his Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip at 14, becoming the youngest footballer to play in the Palestine Liga A at the time. The midfielder attracted the attention of a German coach while playing for the Palestine national team in Norway.

“He always dreamed of playing outside the country, to represent Palestine through playing for an Arab or an international team, and he was talented enough,” Emad said.

The Guardian also carried a report about Sarsak: “Palestinian footballer’s hunger strike sparks fears for his life” and did CNN.

There has been virtually no international media reporting on Akram Rikhawi.

Solidarity

In the latest instances of international solidarity, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) plans to hold a vigil in Dublin on Thursday, 7 July in solidarity with Sarsak, Rikhawi and Samer Baraq, a third prisoner who restarted his hunger strike two weeks ago after Israel reneged on an agreement to release him from administrative detention.

IPSC also issued a statement calling on
the Irish Government to intervene to save the lives of two Palestinian political prisoners, Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi who have been on hunger strike for 80 days and 55 days respectively. The IPSC also called on the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), the Irish Football Association (IFA), UEFA and FIFA to publicly raise the issue of Mr. Sarsak who is a member of the Palestinian national soccer team.

Supporters also held protests in London, and in Paris.

Full statement

Immediate action needed: independent doctor confirms current hunger strikers face imminent threats to their lives

    6 June 2012
    Joint Urgent Appeal

As organisations dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights, the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations (PCHRO) and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) are gravely concerned for the lives of three Palestinian prisoners that remain on hunger strike in Israeli prison. Today, Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi were visited by PHR-Israel’s independent doctor for the first time since they launched their hunger strikes.

Mahmoud Sarsak is currently on his 80th day of hunger strike, resulting in an imminent threat to his life. Despite the urgency of his condition, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has denied Mahmoud access to independent doctors from PHR-Israel until today. The IPS also refuses to transfer him to a civilian hospital for proper treatment. Following today’s visit, the PHR-Israel doctor reported that Mahmoud has experienced extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. He has lost 33 percent of his body weight, from an original weight of 76 kilos down to his present weight of 51 kilos. He also suffers from frequent incidents of fainting and loss of consciousness, in addition to lapses in memory. The doctor further reported that Mahmoud is in danger of pulse disruptions (arrhythmias) that are endangering his life.

Mahmoud, 25 years old and a member of the Palestinian national football team, has been detained for nearly three years under Israel’s “Unlawful Combatants Law,” which allows for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to be detained for an unlimited amount of time without charge or trial. Those detained under the Statute have little or no legal protections, even less than those detained under administrative detention orders in the West Bank.

Also of utmost concern is the condition of Akram Rikhawi, currently on his 56th day of hunger strike. PHR-Israel has made numerous requests to gain access to Akram but all have been denied until today. Following today’s visit, the PHR-Israel doctor reported that Akram also already suffers from extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. His weight has decreased from 68 kilos to 50 kilos, which is a total loss of 26.5 percent. The PHR-Israel doctor determined that a combination of inflammation of prior chronic illnesses and the complications of hunger strike render hospitalization immediately necessary.

Akram has been held in the Ramleh prison medical center since his arrest in 2004, as he suffers from many different chronic conditions, including diabetes and asthma. Akram began his hunger strike on 12 April in protest against his request for early release not being granted despite his medical condition. Yesterday, 5 June, his appeal for an early release on medical grounds was rejected. The IPS doctors’ threats to force-feed and force-treat him, in addition to their determination not to recommend his medicalcondition as worthy of earlier release from prison, has led Akram to regard them with deep distrust. Thus, he often refuses to receive treatmentfor his chronic illnesses, or the complications they generate.

PHR-Israel’s independent doctor strongly recommended that both Mahmoud and Akram be immediately transferred to a hospital, as they are at immediate risk of death. These recommendations were given directly to the IPS doctor present with him during the visit. It should be emphasized that contrary to medical ethic and professional standards, the IPS refused the request of the independent doctor to go over the full medical files of both Mahmoud and Akram. He stated that according to the limited information accessible to him, the medical follow-up they have been receiving is insufficient both in frequency and scope.

A third Palestinian prisoner also remains on hunger strike. Samer Al-Barq, 38 years old, has been held in administrative detention, without charge or trial, since 11 July 2010. Samer is currently held in Ramleh prison medical center. Samer participated in the Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger strike from 17 April until 14 May. He re-launched his hunger strike on 21 May in protest against the renewal of his administrative detention order in spite of an understanding in the agreement that ended the mass hunger strike, which implied that current administrative detainees would not have their orders renewed.

While administrative detention is allowed under international humanitarian law, it must be used only under exceptional circumstances as it infringes upon basic human rights, including the right to a fair trial. Indeed, the denial of a fair trial constitutes a ‘grave breach’ of the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the most serious forms of war crimes. This form of arbitrary arrest also contravenes Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, the European Parliament called on Israel in a September 2008 resolution to “guarantee that minimum standards on detention be respected, to bring to trial all detainees, [and] to put an end to the use of ‘administrative detention orders’.” The United Nations Human Rights Committee has stated several times that prolonged administrative detention is likely to result in the exposure of detainees to “torture, ill-treatment and other violations of human rights.”

Given the critical health condition of the hunger strikers and the fact that Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi face imminent death, the PCHRO and PHR-Israel:

demand that all hunger strikers in advanced stages are moved immediately to civilian hospitals where they can receive the standard of care necessary;
call for immediate intervention for the IPS to provide all hunger strikers with unrestricted access to independent doctors;
demand that all hunger strikers are allowed family visits;
urge the Member States of the United Nations to urgently put pressure on Israel to end its policy of arbitrary detention and to abide by the standard rules for the treatment of prisoners adopted in 1955, which set out what is generally accepted as being decent principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners;
call on the European Parliament to activate the parliamentary fact-finding mission that includes members of its Subcommittee on Human Rights to investigate the conditions of detention of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons;
emphasise that the parliamentary fact-finding mission must include an investigation into Israel’s illegal practice of administrative detention and the use of the “Unlawful Combatant Law”;
urge Members of the European Parliament to bring the case of all three hunger strikers to the attention of relevant Israeli authorities without delay. The Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel:

Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association
Sahar Francis, General Director
Aldameer Association for Human Rights
Khalil Abu Shammala, General Director
Al-Haq
Shawan Jabarin, General Director
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Issam Younis, General Director
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Najwa Darwish, General Director
Defence for Children International - Palestine Section
Rifat Kassis, General Director
Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Shawqi Issa, General Director
Hurryyat - Centre for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
Helmi Al-araj, General Director
Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
Issam Aruri, General Director
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Iyad Barghouti, General Director
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling Maha Abu Dayyeh, General Director
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel Ran Cohen, Executive Director

No comments: